A Review By: Amelia
Fantasy has always been a weird genre for me in that I’d never given it a chance before declaring that I didn’t like it. It’s the only genre I’ve ever done that with. I suppose it’s because I’d given science-fiction a big chance to win me over but it never did so I just assumed that fantasy couldn’t either. Well, I was wrong. Recently I’ve gotten into fantasy in a huge way and all it took was watching the first Lord of the Rings movie! Who would have thought it? Anyways, before my sudden and unexpected passion for fantasy I read The Two Princesses of Bamarre, a fantasy novel aimed at pre/young teenagers (I did read it in that age group) and surprisingly, I really liked it!
Princess Meryl is brave and adventurous and dreams of fighting dragons and protecting her kingdom Bamarre. Her sister, Princess Addie, is the complete opposite and is shy and fearful and content to stay within the safety of the castle walls. The one thing the sisters have in common is their unwavering love for each other. Bamarre is a safe place for the sisters to play their games of imagination but an illness that no one is immune to stalks the hallways and alleys of the kingdom and, one day not unlike all the other days in the castle, Meryl catches the Gray Death and is left fatally ill. To save her sister, meek Princess Addie must find the courage within herself and set out on a dangerous quest to save her sister’s life. Addie’s journey is filled with dragons, magic, danger, and possibly even death, but time will run out soon enough and she must overcome it all.
The author of this epic fantasy tale is Gail Carson Levine. Levine grew up in New York City and began writing seriously in 1987. Her first book for children, Ella Enchanted, was a 1998 Newbery Honor Book. Levine's other books include Fairest; Dave at Night, (an ALA Notable Book and Best Book for Young Adults), The Wish, and the six Princess Tales books. She is also the author of the nonfiction book Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly and the picture book Betsy Who Cried Wolf, illustrated by Scott Nash. She’s a fantasy writer and she definitely knows her stuff.
The characters of The Two Princesses of Bamarre are written well, but since it is a book meant for twelve year olds, they’re written very plainly – but not plain as in boring. I use plain in the sense that Meryl is the strong sister and Addie is the weak sister but then as the story develops you see the roles flip. It’s very black and white with all the shades of grey tucked away. That’s not to say that they’re not well written characters, they’re just very visible in their intents and how they’re going to evolve as characters.
The best part of any fantasy story has got to be the location and The Two Princesses of Bamarre is no different. Bamarre is a vast realm covered by plains and mountains and dragons’ caves. It’s also plagued by a disease called the Gray Death, specters (which lure travelers to their deaths unless exposed), sorcerers, ogres, dwarves, elves, gryphons, dragons, and fairies, although the latter haven’t been seen since the realms greatest hero Drualt disappear. It’s all pretty standard fantasy stuff but we’re living in a post-Tolkien world so it’s bound to happen. I still found the land enchanting and exciting and just right for the characters and the history that was introduced as the novel went on.
So where do I stand on The Two Princess of Bamarre? Well, since I recently discovered my crazy strong love for fantasy I say it’s great! Am I biased? Absolutely. But back when I read this book, I didn’t declare myself a big fantasy fan, so considering that it still kept my attention back then (several times actually since I reread it a few times in grade school) I’d say it’s still pretty damn enjoyable!
My final thoughts on The Two Princess of Bamarre are that it’s a good little adventure book. It’s very well thought out and evenly balanced and every time I reread it, it sparks my imagination and leaves me longing for more stories with dragons and castles and swords. It might seem a little dull or predictable for an older reader or one that’s well acquainted with fantasy, but for a middle school kid or someone wanting to just dip their toes into fantasy, it’s a great place to start.